By David Fong
MUNCIE, Ind. — Kelsey Walters used to think the shot put would make a perfect paperweight.
“I always thought the shot put was for people who couldn’t run,” the Troy High School graduate said. “I never saw myself throwing the shot put. I laugh about that all the time now.”
That’s because Walters — who had always envisioned herself strictly as a sprinter until her freshman year at Troy — has become not one of the greatest shot putters at Troy, but in just her second year at Ball State University, has become the greatest shot putter in that school’s history, too.
On April 14 at the Ball State Challenge track and field meet, Walters broke the school record in the shot put with a heave of 14.77 meters (48.46 feet). The previous record had been in place for nearly three decades, a mark of 14.68 meters (48.16 feet) set by Gina Rusch in 1991.
“I had been throwing really well in practice,” Walters said. “And when I threw that one, I knew I had gotten off a pretty good one — but I didn’t know how far it had gone. When they said what I had thrown, I couldn’t believe it.”
Much of what Walters has done the past few years is unbelievable, because until Troy throwing coach Aaron Gibbons pulled her out of class one day her freshman year, Walters had never dreamed of doing anything but running sprints for the Trojans.
“I had always run the sprints in junior high,” she said. “I was a sprinter. Then one day Coach Gibbons came into one of my classes and told me I was a shot putter. Up until then, I had never thought about throwing the shot. I’m so thankful he did that, because it’s definitely helped get me where I am today.”
As it would turn out, Walters — who also played soccer in the fall at Troy — would continue to run sprints while also throwing the shot put for the Trojans. She still has one of the top 15 times in the 200 in school history and is on the top sprint medley and throwers 4×100 relay teams in Troy history. She also was a part of the Troy 4×100 relay team that placed seventh in the state her sophomore season.
Her skills in the shot put would continue to develop even faster than he skills on the track, however. She was a state qualifier in the event as a junior, placing 10th. As a senior, she again qualified for state, this time placing sixth, good enough for a spot on the podium. That year, she also set the school record in the shot put (41-10), which has since been broken by Trojan sophomore Lenea Browder.
That led her to Ball State, where she has become one of the top shot putters in the Mid-American Conference in just her second season. Her record-setting throw made her an automatic qualifier for the MAC meet.
“Kelsey is really talented and finally starting to put it together,” Ball State track and field coach Brian Etelman said. “She is beginning to understand the different pieces of how this works and she is developing into a better competitor.”
Walters has spent the last two years getting stronger than she ever was in high school — not just in the weightroom, but with her technique in the ring. While Walters used the glide technique to throw in high school she has since changed to a rotational technique in college. That was a major change for Walters, but one she has picked up quickly — and the results have been obvious.
“Going from glide to rotation is a completely different mindset,” she said. “That was hard for me, because I never had a discus background. That’s a big thing to learn super quick. I’m definitely stronger than I was in high school, but the biggest thing for me has been improving my technique. That’s so much more important now than just being stronger.
“But it’s made such a huge difference for me. I’m a much better thrower now than I used to be. I really feel like there’s still so much more I can improve on. The sky is the limit.”
As good as things are going for Walters in the shot put, however, there are times when she wonders what could have been — and she has never forgotten her roots as a sprinter.
“I still think I could have been a sprinter if I had focused just on that,” she said. “I would never want to limit myself and say I couldn’t do something. But I’m happy with the way things have worked out.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong